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Ohio Finds Early Success Helping Youth Transition From Foster Care

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The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says more than 1,250 young people have participated in a program that helps foster children transition to independent adulthood. 

Mark Mecum, CEO of the nonprofit Child and Family Health Collaborative of Ohio, says that in just two years the Bridges program has impacted the lives of young adults across the state.

“Years ago, foster youth in Ohio faced homelessness, unemployment and high rates of incarceration when they would age out of foster care at age 18,” Mecum says.

Funding for Bridges was passed by the Ohio legislature in December 2017. Last year, the program had an annual budget of $14 million.

“We are equipping these young adults to navigate the challenges of entering adulthood on their own without a support network of family,” Mecum says. “In just two years, we are already producing really positive results."

A voluntary program, Bridges works with 18-20-year-olds to access safe housing, job training, education and health care, and is administered through a network of five offices across Ohio. Mecum says the program ensures that every person eligible to participate benefits from the resources offered, regardless of where they live in the state. 

In fact, Mecum says that he’d like to see even more individuals involved. Currently, only 50% of those eligible to participate in Bridges are enrolled.

“Our team is on the ground in every community in Ohio promoting the opportunities that Bridges has for young adults aging out of foster care,” Mecum says. “We’re really hopeful that even more young adults will choose to enroll over this next year.”